Complementary hemispheric lateralization of language and social processing in the human brain.
Rajimehr R., Firoozi A., Rafipoor H., Abbasi N., Duncan J.
Humans have a unique ability to use language for social communication. The neural architecture for language comprehension and production may have prominently emerged in the brain areas that were originally involved in social cognition. Here, we directly tested the fundamental link between language and social processing using functional magnetic resonance data (MRI) data from over 1,000 human subjects. Cortical activations in language and social tasks showed a striking similarity with a complementary hemispheric lateralization. Within core language areas, left-lateralized activations in the language task were mirrored by right-lateralized activations in the social task. Outside these areas, the activations were left lateralized in both tasks, perhaps indicating multimodal integration of social and semantic information. Our findings could have important implications in understanding neurocognitive mechanisms of social disorders such as autism.